Aggregating The New Statesmen book recommendations

by on December 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

There are dozens of separate recommendations, by well-known writers, but these three books recur repeatedly:

1. John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead: Essays.  I enjoyed this one too.

2. Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, already out in the UK not yet out in the US.

3. Michael Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.  Deirdre McCloskey had a good review of that book here.

Ray Lopez December 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm

@#2–another decent book is “Dreadnought” by Massie on pre-WWI Europe, which sells for 45 cents. You’ll find that there were numerous opportunities for war just before 1914, including the Boer War of 1899, the crisis in north Africa and NE Africa (Tangir? doing this from memory). And German Wilhelm II was unbalanced (despite being related to Queen Victoria of the UK). So much for friendship between nations. In short: pre-WWI Europe was racist (“Darwinian evolution of nations”, and e.g. nobody would dance with Jewish girls, even rich ones, such was the stigma), imperialist (Germany’s ‘place in the sun’ or ‘living space’ ideology; the UK’s obsession with fighting two wars at the same time and maintaining superiority at sea–not unlike the USA today; division of China and Africa, despite being marginally economically profitable {India was a different story}) and, third, the Europeans underestimated the carnage from modern weaponry (this was true even since the Crimean war of 50 years before WWI and other wars). On this last point defense nearly always won in WWI. In WWII, despite mobility, you could argue defense won even then (Stalingrad, Kursk were two great defensive battles that won WWII in Europe).

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 3:02 am

I know of no evidence that Wilhelm II was unbalanced. As for the rest, so what? Being a racist does not make you stupid. Nor does being an Imperialist. Nor does being either make you unique. Whatever the special features of the First World War are, it is not those.

Ray Lopez December 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Well if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it. By your logic North Korea run by Kim would make a good neighbor.

So Much For Subtlety December 4, 2012 at 1:52 am

As a general rule I think it is best to assume historical figures are acting from rational causes. If they seem to be erratic, usually that just means I have not read enough. Too often saying someone is insane or stupid looks like a way of avoiding dealing with complexity.

But as you say, if I don’t get it, I don’t get it. I admit to trouble imagining a rational cause for North Korean behavior. But one nut doesn’t mean they are all.

Dan in Euroland December 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Your readers may also be interested in Gintis’s review of Sandel’s book:

vanderleun December 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

“On this last point defense nearly always won in WWI”

Until of course defense was overwhelmed by the Hundred Days Offensive in 1918 that brought the war to a close.

“In WWII, despite mobility, you could argue defense won even then ”

Until of course defense was overwhelmed by Normandy, the Ardennes, the encirclement of Berlin, the obliteration of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc…..

Willitts December 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of mankind.

Patton must have been part of the siege of Masada in a past life.

The problem with WWI is that tactics had not developed sufficiently to overcome two innovations – the machinegun and chemical weapons. In a more fundamental way, the plutocracy of military leadership inhibited quicker evolution of strategy and tactics. Armored vehicles came too late to be useful, and combat aircraft were in their infancy.

WWII solved those problems and shaped modern warfare between nation states. Nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles added a new dimension, but mechanized warfare wasn’t abandoned as a core concept.
Counterinsurgency is the new focus because of the types of wars and enemies we fight now, but mechanized warfare has been retained as core capability for the wars we might fight but don’t want to.

Willitts December 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

3. McCloskey cleans Sandel’s clock.

D December 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm

So did Gintis. Bad.

Brian H December 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

Yeah, totally confirmed my expectations. I feared it would be as economically important as “Justice,” and I appear to have been correct.

Brian H December 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

“ignorant” not “important”

TuringTest December 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Aggregation is so lame

Tom December 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm

The Sleepwalkers doesn’t come out for quite awhile, but I’m going to buy it. Thank you for posting.

hot deals December 7, 2012 at 4:22 am

Thanks for this kind of post, Impressed by your article.

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